Robots like the ones above are cute, and I'm sure they're functional, but there's one place they don't belong: in social media marketing.

That's right. Despite all the products and services designed to "do social media for you," that's not how you succeed with social media.

Can automation services help you with the execution of a social media strategy? Sure. Should automation services be your social media strategy? Never.

It's all about finding the right mix and knowing how to use automation services as a way to make your life easier and support your strategy, rather than relying on it to do the job for you.

I'm not going to tell you what tools to use - there are thousands of them, and almost as many blog posts suggesting which ones to use for what purposes. Instead, I want you to take the tools you like and usethe tips in this post to use them more effectively.

The most effective way to use any automation tool is 'sparingly.' But if you're looking for ways to use automation, you can try these tips.

When to Use Social Media Automation

The main reason to use social media automation is to schedule posts. As you probably have realized, it's best to post frequently throughout the day or week instead of writing 20 posts at once and publishing them all within an hour, then going silent for days. However, it can be tough to remember to pop on over to Facebook or Twitter several times a day. For many people, this makes social media management take longer than it needs to.

Instead, block out an hour per day, or every other day, or week, depending on how much time writing content for social media takes you, and how often you post. Sit down with an editorial calendar and knock out as many posts as you can. Schedule them so that when published, they're spaced out enough that you won't clutter someone's Twitter timeline or Facebook news feed.

So, what kinds of posts should you schedule? I like to schedule what I call "conversation starter posts." Share links to news and blog posts that your audience and customers will find interesting. Share pictures related to your brand (with proper attribution). Share company news and how it pertains to your audience. Share anything that you think could be the start of a conversation, rather than a continuation of an existing one.

When to Post in Real-Time

You know how I mentioned above that it's helpful to schedule "conversation starters?" Continuations of conversations, whether started by you or someone else reaching out to you on social media, shouldn't be scheduled because you want to respond as soon as you can. So if someone responds to a conversation starter, tweets at your handle, or messages or posts to your Facebook brand page, you want them to get a response as soon as possible.

Additionally, your business will inevitably have some important news that your customers need to know immediately. Hopefully, not too much of an emergency, but time-sensitive news nonetheless. Obviously, if the update won't be as important in a few days or hours, you want to publish that post when you write it.

The Bottom Line

Notice that I never once suggested having automation software create posts for you. There are ways to tweet all day without ever touching the keyboard, except for setting up the tool when you first start using it. But that's not social media; that's social media robots. And as cute as robots can be, you don't want them running your marketing.